By Mandy Sackett | Published 2019/03/15
February Hearing Report'
February marked the Coastal Commission’s first hearing of the year. It took place at the Oceano Hotel & Spa in Half Moon Bay Harbor on Wednesday, February 6 through Friday, February 8. The meeting included important coastal issues: a harbor dredge project at Moss Landing Harbor and an appeal at Hollister Ranch. Notably, Commission enforcement staff gave a report on the success and effectiveness of their recently bestowed ability to leverage administrative fines under Coastal Act section 30821.
King Tides Report and Sea Level Rise Planning
A few weeks ago, thanks to partners at Lighthawk, the Surfrider Foundation was able to document the king tides from the air and show what our coast will look like in the near future due to sea level rise. California’s 19 coastal counties make up only 22 percent of the state, but those 19 counties are home to 68 percent of our population, 80 percent of the state’s wages, and 80 percent of its GDP. How the state prepares for sea level rise is, to put it mildly, significant.
In most places, the king tide averaged a foot or so higher than normal. The ocean, however, is expected to keep on rising beyond that point – and doing so faster than initially predicted. Just last year, multiple reports again reinforced the urgency of making changes to stave off disaster – and to adapt to the impacts already happening. Truth is, many of our beaches are likely already doomed. To save what we can, adaptation and mitigation are essential. Those efforts can include such measures as retrofitting roads and buildings, relocating vulnerable infrastructure, improving building codes, increasing zoning setbacks from the coast, installing green infrastructure and implementing ‘living shorelines.’
Moss Landing Harbor 10-Year Dredge Project
The Moss Landing Harbor District requested approval of a 10-year CDP to restore the harbor to navigable depths. In speaking to the disposal of the dredged sediment, The Surfrider Foundation commented with concerns about the legacy of contamination within Moss Landing Harbor. The permit would allow dredging to commence almost a full six months after the sediment sampling took place. This winter has brought many winter storms and swells that surely have altered and stirred up the harbor sediment and may have uncovered legacy toxins in the harbor. Surfrider is a proponent of beneficial reuse of sediment, but would like to see it done in a thoughtful manner. For more information, check out the vote chart and Watch Surfrider’s full presentation on ActCoastal’s YouTube page.
In 2014, SB 861 amended the Coastal Act by adding Public Resources Code Section 30821 , conferring administrative penalty authority on the Coastal Commission as a tool for deterring and resolving Coastal Act violations related to public access more quickly. Since then. Coastal Commission enforcement staff have been busily and successfully resolving a great number of public access violations.
At the February hearing, enforcement staff gave a report on the success and effectiveness of their recently bestowed ability to leverage administrative fines under Coastal Act section 30821.With the new authority, enforcement staff has been able to resolve more cases in a shorter time frame. Historically, access cases took approximately 5 years to resolve, now the average is 3-to-5 months. The resolution success rate over the 137 cases that were pursued since authority was granted is currently at 74 percent, with 23.3 percent still in negotiation and only 2.2 percent that are unresolved and will end up in litigation.
The limitation of this authority is that it can only be used for public access. As Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh pointed out, the success of this tool is a clear indicator that it should be used for other types of Coastal Act violations, including wetlands cases, especially as wetlands are the first line of defense against sea level rise. Indeed, the Coastal Commission should pursue how we can deploy this tool more widely. Watch the full report and Commissioner and public comments on ActCoastal’s Youtube page.